Spine Conditions and Treatments

spine anatomyThe spine (aka the backbone) plays a vital role in spinal cord stability, smooth movement, and protection. It is made up of bony segments called vertebra with fibrous tissue called intervertebral discs between them. The vertebra and discs form the spinal column from the head to the pelvis, therefore, giving symmetry and support to the body.

Your Spine Deserves Special Care

Your spine is at the center of a delicately balanced system that controls all of your body’s movements. Bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves all work together to balance the weight of your body. However, minor damage to one component of your back’s structure can upset this fragile balance and make movement painful.

It is not surprising, then, that back pain is second only to headache as the most common cause of pain, or that 8 out of 10 people will have a problem with back pain at some time. The causes of back pain can be simple or complex; the vast majority can be treated non-surgically, but in some severe cases, surgery is necessary.

Spine Treatment

Spine & Orthopedic Center is rapidly gaining a reputation as a world leader in spine treatment. Patients come from all over the world seeking spinal treatment by our award-winning orthopedic doctors and surgeons. Please find below some of the most common spinal conditions, treatments, and procedures performed by our specialists.

Most Common Spine Problems

  • Herniated Disc

    Disc herniation, often referred to as a “slipped,” or “ruptured” disc. And, it is a common cause of low back, neck, and even arm or leg pain. However, the most frequently affected area of the spinal column is the lower back (the lumbar section of the spine.) But, any disc in the vertebral column can rupture. Protective discs found between the bones of the spinal column are the vertebrae. The vertebral discs are the shock-absorbing. And they are made up of a sturdy outer shell of cartilage encasing an inner gel-like substance.

    However, they do not actually “slip,” though. Instead, they may rupture or split, allowing the inner gel-like material to escape into the surrounding tissues. This puts pressure on nearby spinal nerves. Therefore, they are very sensitive to even the slightest of pressure. Nerve irritation then results in pain, numbness, or weakness in the back and can radiate to one or both legs or arms.

  • Disc Degeneration

    Disc degeneration and loss of elasticity due to aging are some of the most common causes of herniation. Although, improper lifting, excessive back strain, and repetitive injury to the back area make the discs weaker and more vulnerable to an injury. Spinal nerves exit at every level of the spinal column. Therefore, symptoms may be felt along the length of the affected nerve (e.g., down the leg). The pain that radiates from the herniation can range though, from mild to severe. And, it can be associated with numbness, tingling, or weakness. However, pain may be worsened by movement, straining, coughing, or with leg raises.

Spinal Disorders Summary

Aging and/or traumatic wearing away of the discs (shock absorbers) that are located between the spinal vertebrae (bones).
Aging phenomenon gives rise to a wearing away of the smooth cartilage (Teflon coating) within the spinal facets (joints).
Pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in one or both legs referable to inflammation or compression of one or more branches of the sciatic nerve (nerve symptoms).
Rupture of a piece of the disc, sometimes causing pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord, with resulting pain, numbness or weakness in one or both arms or legs (nerve symptoms).
Narrowing of an area in the spinal canal which may cause “nerve symptoms” if the narrowing compresses a nerve.
Slippage of one vertebral body on another due to either aging arthritis or to a fracture, acquired during childhood or adolescence. Slippage and instability may cause nerve symptoms.
Curvature of the spine usually due to congenital, unknown or degenerative causes.
Loss of calcium from spinal bones.  Most commonly occurring in older women after menopause.
Spinal bones typically fracture due to trauma and falls, although they may occur in osteoporosis patients with minimal if any trauma.
Tumors may be benign or malignant. Although they may arise primarily from the spinal vertebrae themselves, these bones are frequently the site of secondary deposition of malignant tumors arising from other organs (metastasis lesions).
The spinal bones and discs may become infected, usually from bacteria traveling in the blood or urine.

Understanding The Anatomy of Your Spine

Your spine is a strong and flexible bony structure. It is made up of five sections, from the neck to the tailbone, consisting of 33 bones or vertebrae, such as:

  1. Cervical spine (neck)
  2. Thoracic spine (upper back)
  3. Lumbar spine (lower back)
  4. Sacrum
  5. Coccyx (tailbone)

In the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar areas, however, cushion-like discs separate the vertebrae. Therefore, giving the spine the ability to bend and turn. In addition, there are five vertebrae in the sacrum, but they are fused naturally. And they do not have discs to separate them. The coccyx, on the other hand, has four smaller vertebrae that also are fused.

The Cervical Spine

The cervical spine (neck) consists of seven vertebrae numbered C1 through C7 from top to bottom. Each of the top two vertebrae has a unique design. C1 is a two-tiered ring that is attached to the skull. C2, however, has a protrusion that acts as a post around which C1 rotates. C1 and C2 are primarily responsible for the motion of the head. Each of the remaining vertebrae in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions has a pair of facet joints that connect to muscles and ligaments to keep the vertebra in place, as well as a disc, which cushions the spine and allows it to move.

The Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine (upper back) consists of 12 vertebrae that are attached to the ribcage. However, very little motion occurs in this region. And problems in this area are relatively uncommon.

The Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine has five vertebrae. This region endures a lot of stress, especially when you bend, and is a common source of back pain.

The Spinal Cord

The spinal cord runs from the brain through the cervical and thoracic spine. Then, the nerve roots come off the spinal cord and form the cauda equina, or “horse’s tail.” At each level of the vertebra, a nerve root exits on each side of the spine. In the cervical spine, however, the nerve root is labeled as the lower segment that runs between the lumbar spine. Furthermore, the nerve root is named after the upper part that it runs between. That means that the C5 nerve root runs between C5 and C4, and the L4 nerve root runs between L4 and L5.